Folk music is a
music genre that includes
traditional folk music and the
contemporary genre that evolved from the former during the 20th-century
folk revival. Some types of folk music may be called
world music. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted orally, music with unknown composers, music that is played on traditional instruments, music about cultural or national identity, music that changes between generations (folk process), music associated with a people's
folklore, or music performed by
custom over a long period of time. It has been contrasted with
classical styles. The term originated in the 19th century, but folk music extends beyond that.
Starting in the mid-20th century, a new form of popular folk music evolved from traditional folk music. This process and period is called the (second) folk revival and reached a zenith in the 1960s. This form of music is sometimes called
contemporary folk music or folk revival music to distinguish it from earlier folk forms. Smaller, similar revivals have occurred elsewhere in the world at other times, but the term folk music has typically not been applied to the new music created during those revivals. This type of folk music also includes fusion genres such as
folk metal, and others. While contemporary folk music is a genre generally distinct from traditional folk music, in
U.S. English it shares the same name, and it often shares the same performers and venues as traditional folk music.
The terms folk music, folk song, and folk dance are comparatively recent expressions. They are extensions of the term folklore, which was coined in 1846 by the English antiquarian
William Thoms to describe "the traditions, customs, and superstitions of the uncultured classes". The term further derives from the German expression volk, in the sense of "the people as a whole" as applied to popular and national music by
Johann Gottfried Herder and the German Romantics over half a century earlier. Though it is understood that folk music is the music of the people, observers find a more precise definition to be elusive. Some do not even agree that the term folk music should be used. Folk music may tend to have certain characteristics but it cannot clearly be differentiated in purely musical terms. One meaning often given is that of "old songs, with no known composers," another is that of music that has been submitted to an evolutionary "process of
oral transmission.... the fashioning and re-fashioning of the music by the community that give it its folk character."
Such definitions depend upon "(cultural) processes rather than abstract musical types...", upon "continuity and oral transmission...seen as characterizing one side of a cultural dichotomy, the other side of which is found not only in the lower layers of feudal, capitalist and some oriental societies but also in 'primitive' societies and in parts of 'popular cultures'". One widely used definition is simply "Folk music is what the people sing."
For Scholes, as well as for
Cecil Sharp and
Béla Bartók, there was a sense of the music of the country as distinct from that of the town. Folk music was already, "...seen as the authentic expression of a way of life now past or about to disappear (or in some cases, to be preserved or somehow revived)," particularly in "a community uninfluenced by art music" and by commercial and printed song. Lloyd rejected this in favor of a simple distinction of economic class yet for him, true folk music was, in
Charles Seeger's words, "associated with a lower class" in culturally and socially stratified societies. In these terms, folk music may be seen as part of a "schema comprising four musical types: 'primitive' or 'tribal'; 'elite' or 'art'; 'folk'; and 'popular'."
Music in this genre is also often called traditional music. Although the term is usually only descriptive, in some cases people use it as the name of a genre. For example, the
Grammy Award previously used the terms "traditional music" and "traditional folk" for folk music that is not contemporary folk music. Folk music may include most
From a historical perspective, traditional folk music had these characteristics:
It was transmitted through an
oral tradition. Before the 20th century, ordinary people were usually illiterate; they acquired songs by memorizing them. Primarily, this was not mediated by books or recorded or transmitted media. Singers may extend their repertoire using
song books, but these secondary enhancements are of the same character as the primary songs experienced in the flesh.
The music was often related to
national culture. It was culturally particular; from a particular region or culture. In the context of an immigrant group, folk music acquires an extra dimension for social cohesion. It is particularly conspicuous in immigrant societies, where
Punjabi Canadians, and others strive to emphasize their differences from the mainstream. They learn songs and dances that originate in the countries their grandparents came from.
They commemorate historical and personal events. On certain days of the year, including such holidays as Christmas, Easter, and May Day, particular songs celebrate the yearly cycle. Birthdays, weddings, and funerals may also be noted with songs, dances and special costumes. Religious festivals often have a folk music component.
Choral music at these events brings children and non-professional singers to participate in a public arena, giving an emotional bonding that is unrelated to the aesthetic qualities of the music.
The songs have been performed, by
custom, over a long period of time, usually several
As a side-effect, the following characteristics are sometimes present:
There is no
copyright on the songs. Hundreds of folk songs from the 19th century have known authors but have continued in oral tradition to the point where they are considered traditional for purposes of music publishing. This has become much less frequent since the 1940s. Today, almost every folk song that is recorded is credited with an arranger.
Fusion of cultures: Because cultures interact and change over time, traditional songs evolving over time may incorporate and reflect influences from disparate cultures. The relevant factors may include instrumentation,
phrasing, subject matter, and even production methods.
Throughout most of human prehistory and history, listening to
recorded music was not possible. Music was made by common people during both their work and leisure, as well as during religious activities. The work of economic production was often manual and communal.Manual labor often included singing by the workers, which served several practical purposes. It reduced the
boredom of repetitive tasks, it kept the
synchronized pushes and pulls, and it set the pace of many activities such as
leisure time, singing and playing
musical instruments were common forms of entertainment and history-telling—even more common than today when electrically enabled technologies and widespread literacy make other forms of entertainment and information-sharing competitive.
Some believe that folk music originated as
art music that was changed and probably debased by oral transmission while reflecting the character of the society that produced it. In many societies, especially preliterate ones, the cultural transmission of folk music requires
learning by ear, although
notation has evolved in some cultures. Different cultures may have different notions concerning a division between "folk" music on the one hand and of "art" and "court" music on the other. In the proliferation of popular music genres, some traditional folk music became also referred to as "
World music" or "Roots music".
The English term "
folklore", to describe traditional folk music and dance, entered the vocabulary of many continental European nations, each of which had its folk-song collectors and revivalists. The distinction between "authentic" folk and national and
popular song in general has always been loose, particularly in America and Germany – for example, popular songwriters such as
Stephen Foster could be termed "folk" in America. The
International Folk Music Council definition allows that the term can also apply to music that, "...has originated with an individual composer and has subsequently been absorbed into the unwritten, living tradition of a community. But the term does not cover a song, dance, or tune that has been taken over ready-made and remains unchanged."
World War II folk revival in America and in Britain started a new genre,
Contemporary Folk Music, and brought an additional meaning to the term "folk music": newly composed songs, fixed in form and by known authors, which imitated some form of traditional music. The popularity of "contemporary folk" recordings caused the appearance of the category "Folk" in the
Grammy Awards of 1959; in 1970 the term was dropped in favor of "Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording (including Traditional Blues)", while 1987 brought a distinction between "Best Traditional Folk Recording" and "Best Contemporary Folk Recording". After that, they had a "Traditional music" category that subsequently evolved into others. The term "folk", by the start of the 21st century, could cover singer-songwriters, such as
Donovan from Scotland and American
Bob Dylan, who emerged in the 1960s and much more. This completed a process to where "folk music" no longer meant only traditional folk music.
Traditional folk music often includes
sung words, although folk
instrumental music occurs commonly in
dance music traditions.
Narrative verse looms large in the traditional folk music of many cultures. This encompasses such forms as traditional
epic poetry, much of which was meant originally for oral performance, sometimes accompanied by instruments. Many epic poems of various cultures were pieced together from shorter pieces of traditional narrative verse, which explains their episodic structure, repetitive elements, and their frequent in medias res plot developments. Other forms of traditional narrative verse relate the outcomes of
battles or lament
Work songs frequently feature
call and response structures and are designed to enable the laborers who sing them to coordinate their efforts in accordance with the rhythms of the songs. They are frequently, but not invariably, composed. In the American
armed forces, a lively oral tradition preserves
jody calls ("Duckworth chants") which are sung while soldiers are on the march. Professional sailors made similar use of a large body of
sea shanties.Love poetry, often of a tragic or regretful nature, prominently figures in many folk traditions.Nursery rhymes and
nonsense verse used to amuse or quiet children also are frequent subjects of traditional songs.
Music transmitted by word of mouth through a community, in time, develops many variants, since this transmission cannot produce word-for-word and note-for-note accuracy. In addition, folk singers may choose to modify the songs they hear.
For example, the words of "
I'm a Man You Don't Meet Every Day" (Roud 975) were written down in a
broadside in the 18th century, and seem to have an Irish origin. In 1958 the song was recorded in Canada (My Name is Pat and I'm Proud of That). Scottish traveler
Jeannie Robertson from Aberdeen, made the next recorded version in 1961. She has changed it to make reference to "Jock Stewart", one of her relatives, and there are no Irish references. In 1976 Scottish artist
Archie Fisher deliberately altered the song to remove the reference to a dog being shot. In 1985
The Pogues took it full circle by restoring the Irish references.[original research?]
Because variants proliferate naturally, there is generally no "authoritative" version of song. Researchers in traditional songs have encountered countless versions of the
Barbara Allen ballad throughout the English-speaking world, and these versions often differ greatly from each other. The original is not known; many versions can lay an equal claim to authenticity.
Cecil Sharp felt that these competing variants of a traditional song would undergo a process of improvement akin to biological
natural selection: only those new variants that were the most appealing to ordinary singers would be picked up by others and transmitted onward in time. Thus, over time we would expect each traditional song to become more aesthetically appealing, due to incremental community improvement.
While the loss of traditional folk music in the face of the rise of
popular music is a worldwide phenomenon, it is not one occurring at a uniform rate throughout the world. The process is most advanced "where industrialization and
commercialisation of culture are most advanced" but also occurs more gradually even in settings of lower technological advancement. However, the loss of traditional music is slowed in nations or regions where traditional folk music is a badge of cultural or national identity.
Early folk music, fieldwork and scholarship
Much of what is known about folk music prior to the development of audio recording technology in the 19th century comes from
fieldwork and writings of scholars, collectors and proponents.
Starting in the 19th century, academics and amateur scholars, taking note of the musical traditions being lost, initiated various efforts to preserve the music of the people. One such effort was the collection by
Francis James Child in the late 19th century of the texts of over three hundred
ballads in the English and Scots traditions (called the
Child Ballads), some of which predated the 16th century.
Contemporaneously with Child, the Reverend
Sabine Baring-Gould and later
Cecil Sharp worked to preserve a great body of English rural traditional song, music and dance, under the aegis of what became and remains the
English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS). Sharp campaigned with some success to have English traditional songs (in his own heavily edited and expurgated versions) to be taught to school children in hopes of reviving and prolonging the popularity of those songs. Throughout the 1960s and early to mid-1970s, American scholar
Bertrand Harris Bronson published an exhaustive four-volume collection of the then-known variations of both the texts and tunes associated with what came to be known as the Child Canon. He also advanced some significant theories concerning the workings of oral-aural tradition.
Similar activity was also under way in other countries. One of the most extensive was perhaps the work done in
Krisjanis Barons, who between the years 1894 and 1915 published six volumes that included the texts of 217,996 Latvian folk songs, the Latvju dainas. In Norway the work of collectors such as
Ludvig Mathias Lindeman was extensively used by Edvard Grieg in his Lyric Pieces for piano and in other works, which became immensely popular.
Around this time, composers of
classical music developed a strong interest in collecting traditional songs, and a number of composers carried out their own field work on traditional music. These included
Percy Grainger and
Ralph Vaughan Williams in England and
Béla Bartók in Hungary. These composers, like many of their predecessors, both made arrangements of folk songs and incorporated traditional material into original classical compositions.
Locations in Southern and Central Appalachia visited by the British folklorist
Cecil Sharp in 1916 (blue), 1917 (green), and 1918 (red). Sharp sought "old world" English and Scottish ballads passed down to the region's inhabitants from their British ancestors. He collected hundreds of such ballads, the most productive areas being the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky.
The advent of
audio recording technology provided folklorists with a revolutionary tool to preserve vanishing musical forms. The earliest American folk music scholars were with the
American Folklore Society (AFS), which emerged in the late 1800s. Their studies expanded to include
Native American music, but still treated folk music as a historical item preserved in isolated societies as well. In North America, during the 1930s and 1940s, the
Library of Congress worked through the offices of traditional music collectors
Robert Winslow Gordon,Alan Lomax and others to capture as much North American field material as possible.John Lomax (the father of Alan Lomax) was the first prominent scholar to study distinctly American folk music such as that of cowboys and southern blacks. His first major published work was in 1911, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads. and was arguably the most prominent US folk music scholar of his time, notably during the beginnings of the folk music revival in the 1930s and early 1940s. Cecil Sharp also worked in America, recording the traditional songs of the Appalachian Mountains in 1916–1918 in collaboration with
Maud Karpeles and
Olive Dame Campbell and is considered the first major scholar covering American folk music. Campbell and Sharp are represented under other names by actors in the modern movie Songcatcher.
One strong theme amongst folk scholars in the early decades of the 20th century was
regionalism, the analysis of the diversity of folk music (and related cultures) based on regions of the US rather than based on a given song's historical roots. Later, a dynamic of class and circumstances was added to this. The most prominent regionalists were literary figures with a particular interest in folklore.Carl Sandburg often traveled the U.S. as a writer and a poet. He also collected songs in his travels and, in 1927, published them in the book The American Songbag. Rachel Donaldson, a historian who worked for Vanderbilt, later stated this about The American Songbird in her analysis of the folk music revival. "In his collections of folk songs, Sandburg added a class dynamic to popular understandings of American folk music. This was the final element of the foundation upon which the early folk music revivalists constructed their own view of Americanism. Sandburg's working-class Americans joined with the
racially, and regionally diverse citizens that other scholars, public intellectuals, and folklorists celebrated their own definitions of the American folk, definitions that the folk revivalists used in constructing their own understanding of American folk music, and an overarching American identity".
Prior to the 1930s, the study of folk music was primarily the province of scholars and collectors. The 1930s saw the beginnings of larger scale themes, commonalities, and linkages in folk music developing in the populace and practitioners as well, often related to the
Great Depression. Regionalism and
cultural pluralism grew as influences and themes. During this time folk music began to become enmeshed with political and social activism themes and movements. Two related developments were the U.S. Communist Party's interest in folk music as a way to reach and influence Americans, and politically active prominent folk musicians and scholars seeing communism as a possible better system, through the lens of the Great Depression.Woody Guthrie exemplifies songwriters and artists with such an outlook.
Folk music festivals proliferated during the 1930s.President Franklin Roosevelt was a fan of folk music, hosted folk concerts at the
White House, and often patronized folk festivals. One prominent festival was
Sarah Gertrude Knott's
National Folk Festival, established in St. Louis, Missouri in 1934. Under the sponsorship of
the Washington Post, the festival was held in Washington, DC at Constitution Hall from 1937 to 1942. The folk music movement, festivals, and the wartime effort were seen as forces for social goods such as democracy, cultural pluralism, and the removal of culture and race-based barriers.
The American folk music revivalists of the 1930s approached folk music in different ways. Three primary schools of thought emerged: "Traditionalists" (e.g. Sarah Gertrude Knott and
John Lomax) emphasized the preservation of songs as artifacts of deceased cultures. "Functional" folklorists (e.g. Botkin and Alan Lomax) maintained that songs only retain relevance when used by those cultures which retain the traditions which birthed those songs. "Left-wing" folk revivalists (e.g. Charles Seeger and Lawrence Gellert) emphasized music's role "in 'people's' struggles for social and political rights". By the end of the 1930s these and others had turned American folk music into a social movement.
Sometimes folk musicians became scholars and advocates themselves. For example,
Jean Ritchie (1922–2015) was the youngest child of a large family from
Viper, Kentucky that had preserved many of the old
Appalachian traditional songs. Ritchie, living in a time when the
Appalachians had opened up to outside influence, was university educated and ultimately moved to New York City, where she made a number of classic recordings of the family repertoire and published an important compilation of these songs.
In January 2012, the
American Folklife Center at the
Library of Congress, with the Association for Cultural Equity, announced that they would release Lomax's vast archive of 1946 and later recording in digital form. Lomax spent the last 20 years of his life working on an
Interactive Multimedia educational computer project he called the
Global Jukebox, which included 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000
videotapes, and 5,000 photographs. As of March 2012, this has been accomplished. Approximately 17,400 of Lomax's recordings from 1946 and later have been made available free online. This material from Alan Lomax's independent archive, begun in 1946, which has been digitized and offered by the Association for Cultural Equity, is "distinct from the thousands of earlier recordings on acetate and aluminum discs he made from 1933 to 1942 under the auspices of the Library of Congress. This earlier collection—which includes the famous Jelly Roll Morton, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and Muddy Waters sessions, as well as Lomax's prodigious collections made in
Haiti and Eastern Kentucky (1937) — is the provenance of the American Folklife Center" at the library of Congress.
Many Asian civilizations distinguish between
art/court/classical styles and "folk" music. For example, the late
Alam Lohar is an example of a South Asian singer who was classified as a folk singer.
Khunung Eshei/Khuland Eshei is an ancient folk song from India, a country of Asia, of
Manipur, that is an example of Asian folk music, and how they put it into its own genre.
Han traditional weddings and funerals usually include a form of oboe called a
suona, and apercussive ensembles called a
chuigushou. Ensembles consisting of
mouth organs (
sheng), shawms (
suona), flutes (
dizi) and percussion instruments (especially
yunluogongs) are popular in northern villages; their music is descended from the imperial temple music of Beijing,
Wutai shan and
Xi'an drum music, consisting of wind and percussive instruments, is popular around Xi'an, and has received some commercial popularity outside of China. Another important instrument is the
sheng, a type of Chinese
pipe, an ancient instrument that is ancestor of all Western
free reed instruments, such as the
accordion. Parades led by Western-type
brass bands are common, often competing in volume with a shawm/chuigushou band.
Taiwan, Nanyin or
Nanguan is a genre of traditional ballads. They are sung by a woman accompanied by a
xiao and a
pipa, as well as other traditional instruments. The music is generally sorrowful and typically deals with love-stricken people. Further south, in
zheng ensembles are popular.Sizhu ensembles use flutes and bowed or plucked string instruments to make harmonious and melodious music that has become popular in the West among some listeners. These are popular in
Hangzhou, as well as elsewhere along the southern
Yangtze area.Jiangnan Sizhu (silk and bamboo music from
Jiangnan) is a style of instrumental music, often played by amateur musicians in tea houses in Shanghai.Guangdong Music or
Cantonese Music is instrumental music from
Guangzhou and surrounding areas. The music from this region influenced
Yueju (Cantonese Opera) music, which would later grow popular during the self-described "Golden Age" of China under the
Folk songs have been recorded since ancient times in China. The term
Yuefu was used for a broad range of songs such as ballads, laments, folk songs, love songs, and songs performed at court. China is a vast country, with a multiplicity of linguistic and geographic regions. Folk songs are categorized by geographic region, language type, ethnicity, social function (e.g. work song, ritual song, courting song) and musical type. Modern anthologies collected by Chinese folklorists distinguish between traditional songs, revolutionary songs, and newly-invented songs. The songs of northwest China are known as “flower songs” (hua’er), a reference to beautiful women, while in the past they were notorious for their erotic content. The village “mountain songs” (shan’ge) of Jiangsu province were also well-known for their amorous themes. Other regional song traditions include the “strummed lyrics” (tanci) of the Lower Yangtze Delta, the Cantonese Wooden Fish tradition (muyu or muk-yu) and the Drum Songs (guci) of north China.
In the twenty-first century many cherished Chinese folk songs have been inscribed in the
UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In the process, songs once seen as vulgar are now being reconstructed as romantic courtship songs. Regional song competitions, popular in many communities, have promoted professional folk singing as a career, with some individual folk singers having gained national prominence.
The art, music and dance of Sri Lanka derive from the elements of nature, and have been enjoyed and developed in the
Buddhist environment. The music is of several types and uses only a few types of instruments. The folk songs and poems were used in social gatherings to work together. The Indian influenced classical music has grown to be unique. The traditional drama, music and songs of Sinhala Light Music are typically Sri Lankan.
The temple paintings and carvings feature birds, elephants, wild animals, flowers, and trees, and the
Traditional 18 Dances display the dancing of birds and animals. For example:
Local drama music includes
Kolam and Nadagam types. Kolam music is based on low country tunes primarily to accompany mask dance in
exorcism rituals. It is considered less developed/evolved, true to the folk tradition and a preserving of a more ancient artform. It is limited to approximately 3–4 notes and is used by the ordinary people for pleasure and entertainment.
Nadagam music is a more developed form of drama influenced from South Indian street drama which was introduced by some south Indian artists. Phillippu Singho from Negombo in 1824 performed "Harishchandra Nadagama" in
Hnguranketha which was originally written in the
Telingu language. Later "Maname", "Sanda kinduru" and others were introduced. Don Bastian of
Dehiwala introduced Noorthy firstly by looking at Indian dramas and then
John de Silva developed it as did Ramayanaya in 1886.
Sinhala light music is currently the most popular type of music in Sri Lanka and enriched with the influence of folk music, kolam music, nadagam music, noorthy music,
film music, classical music, Western music, and others. Some artists visited India to learn music and later started introducing light music.
Ananda Samarakone was the pioneer of this and also composed the national anthem.
The classical Sinhalese orchestra consists of five categories of instruments, but among the percussion instruments, the drum is essential for dance.
The vibrant beat of the rhythm of the drums form the basic of the dance. The dancers' feet bounce off the floor and they leap and swirl in patterns that reflect the complex rhythms of the drum beat. This drum beat may seem simple on the first hearing but it takes a long time to master the intricate rhythms and variations, which the drummer sometimes can bring to a
crescendo of intensity. There are six common types of drums falling within 3 styles (one-faced, two-faced, and flat-faced):
The typical Sinhala Dance is identified as the
Kandyan dance and the
Gatabera drum is indispensable to this dance.
Yak-bera is the demon drum or the drum used in low country dance in which the dancers wear masks and perform devil dancing, which has become a highly developed form of art.
The Daula is a
barrel-shaped drum, and it was used as a companion drum with a Thammattama in the past, to keep strict time with the beat.
Thammattama is a flat, two-faced drum. The drummer strikes the drum on the two surfaces on top with sticks, unlike the others where you drum on the sides. This is a companion drum to the aforementioned Dawula.
A small double-headed hand drum is used to accompany songs. It is primarily heard in the poetry dances like vannam.[clarification needed]
The Rabana is a flat-faced circular drum and comes in several sizes. The large Rabana - called the Banku Rabana - has to be placed on the floor like a circular short-legged
table and several people (traditionally women) can sit around it and beat on it with both hands. This is used in festivals such as the
Sinhalese New Year and ceremonies such as weddings. The resounding beat of the Rabana symbolizes the joyous moods of the occasion. The small Rabana is a form of mobile drum beat since the player carries it wherever the person goes.
Other instruments include:
The Thalampata – 2 small cymbals joined by a string.
The wind section, is dominated by an instrument akin to the clarinet.[clarification needed] This is not normally used for dances. This is important to note because the Sinhalese dance is not set to music as the western world knows it; rhythm is king.
The flutes of metal such as silver & brass produce
shrill music to accompany Kandyan Dances, while the plaintive strains of music of the reed flute may pierce the air in devil-dancing. The
Hakgediya) is another form of a natural instrument, and the player blows it to announce the opening of ceremonies of grandeur.
Ravanahatha (ravanhatta, rawanhattha, ravanastron or ravana hasta veena) is a bowed fiddle that was once popular in Western India. It is believed to have originated among the Hela civilisation of Sri Lanka in the time of King Ravana. The bowl is made of cut coconut shell, the mouth of which is covered with goat hide. A dandi, made of bamboo, is attached to this shell. The principal strings are two: one of steel and the other of a set of horsehair. The long bow has jingle bells
Folk song traditions were taken to Australia by early settlers from England, Scotland and Ireland and gained particular foothold in the rural
outback. The rhyming songs, poems and tales written in the form of
bush ballads often relate to the itinerant and rebellious spirit of Australia in
The Bush, and the authors and performers are often referred to as bush bards. The 19th century was the golden age of bush ballads. Several collectors have catalogued the songs including
John Meredith whose recording in the 1950s became the basis of the collection in the
National Library of Australia.
Indigenous Australian music includes the music of
Aboriginal Australians and
Torres Strait Islanders, who are collectively called
Indigenous Australians; it incorporates a variety of distinctive traditional music styles practiced by Indigenous Australian peoples, as well as a range of contemporary musical styles of and
fusion with European traditions as interpreted and performed by indigenous Australian artists. Music has formed an integral part of the
cultural and ceremonial observances of these peoples, down through the millennia of their individual and collective histories to the present day. The traditional forms include many aspects of performance and
musical instruments unique to particular regions or
Indigenous Australian groups. Equal elements of musical tradition are common through much of the Australian continent, and even beyond. The culture of the Torres Strait Islanders is related to that of adjacent parts of
New Guinea and so their music is also related. Music is a vital part of Indigenous Australians' cultural maintenance.
Eastern Bloc era, national folk dancing was actively promoted by the state. Dance troupes from Russia and Poland toured non-communist Europe from about 1937 to 1990. The
Red Army Choir recorded many albums, becoming the most popular military band. Eastern Europe is also the origin of the Jewish
The Hungarian group
Muzsikás played numerous American tours and participated in the Hollywood movie The English Patient while the singer
Márta Sebestyén worked with the band
Deep Forest. The Hungarian táncház movement, started in the 1970s, involves strong cooperation between musicology experts and enthusiastic amateurs. However, traditional Hungarian folk music and folk culture barely survived in some rural areas of Hungary, and it has also begun to disappear among the
ethnic Hungarians in
Transylvania. The táncház movement revived broader folk traditions of music, dance, and costume together and created a new kind of music club. The movement spread to ethnic Hungarian communities elsewhere in the world.
The many regions of the Nordic countries share certain traditions, many of which have diverged significantly, like Psalmodicon of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. It is possible to group together the Baltic states (or, sometimes, only Estonia) and parts of northwest Russia as sharing cultural similarities, although the relationship has gone cold in recent years. Contrast with Norway, Sweden, Denmark and the Atlantic islands of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, which share virtually no similarities of that kind. Greenland's Inuit culture has its own unique musical traditions. Finland shares many cultural similarities with both the Baltic nations and the Scandinavian nations. The Sami of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia have their own unique culture, with ties to the neighboring cultures.
Swedish folk music is a
genre of music based largely on
folkloric collection work that began in the early 19th century in Sweden. The primary instrument of Swedish folk music is the
fiddle. Another common
instrument, unique to Swedish traditions, is the
nyckelharpa. Most Swedish instrumental folk music is
dance music; the signature music and dance form within Swedish folk music is the
polska. Vocal and instrumental traditions in Sweden have tended to share
tunes historically, though they have been performed separately. Beginning with the
folk music revival of the 1970s, vocalists and instrumentalists have also begun to perform together in folk music
The folk music of the Americas consists of the encounter and union of three main musical types: European traditional music, traditional music of the American natives, and tribal African music that arrived with slaves from that continent.
The particular case of Latin and South American music points to
Andean music among other native musical styles (such as Caribbean and pampean), Iberian music of
Portugal, and generally speaking
African tribal music, the three of which fused together evolving in differentiated musical forms in Central and South America.
Andean music comes from the region of the
Aymaras, and other peoples that inhabit the general area of the
Inca Empire prior to European contact. It includes folklore music of parts of
Venezuela. Andean music is popular to different degrees across Latin America, having its core public in rural areas and among indigenous populations. The
Nueva Canción movement of the 1970s revived the genre across Latin America and brought it to places where it was unknown or forgotten.
Nueva canción (Spanish for 'new song') is a movement and genre within
Latin American and
Iberian folk music, folk-inspired music, and socially committed music. In some respects its development and role is similar to the second folk music revival in North America. This includes evolution of this new genre from traditional folk music, essentially contemporary folk music except that that English genre term is not commonly applied to it. Nueva cancion is recognized as having played a powerful role in the social upheavals in Portugal, Spain and Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.
Nueva cancion first surfaced during the 1960s as "The Chilean New Song" in Chile. The musical style emerged shortly afterwards in Spain and areas of Latin America where it came to be known under similar names. Nueva canción renewed traditional Latin American folk music, and with its political lyrics it was soon associated with revolutionary movements, the Latin American
hippie and human rights movements. It would gain great popularity throughout Latin America, and it is regarded as a precursor to
Rock en español.
Cueca is a family of musical styles and associated dances from Chile,
Moda de viola is the name designated to Brazilian folk music. It is often performed with a 6-string nylon acoustic guitar, but the most traditional instrument is the
viola caipira. The songs basically detailed the difficulties of life of those who work in the country. The themes are usually associated with the land, animals, folklore, impossible love and separation. Although there are some upbeat songs, most of them are nostalgic and melancholic.
lumberjacks playing the fiddle, with sticks for percussion, in a lumber camp in 1943.
Traditional folk music of European origin has been present in Canada since the arrival of the first French and British settlers in the 16th and 17th centuries....They fished the coastal waters and farmed the shores of what became Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and the St Lawrence River valley of Quebec.
The fur trade and its
voyageurs brought this farther north and west into Canada; later lumbering operations and lumberjacks continued this process.
Agrarian settlement in eastern and southern Ontario and western Quebec in the early 19th century established a favorable milieu for the survival of many Anglo-Canadian folksongs and broadside ballads from Great Britain and the US. Despite massive industrialization, folk music traditions have persisted in many areas until today. In the north of Ontario, a large Franco-Ontarian population kept folk music of French origin alive.
Populous Acadian communities in the Atlantic provinces contributed their song variants to the huge corpus of folk music of French origin centred in the province of Quebec. A rich source of Anglo-Canadian folk music can be found in the Atlantic region, especially Newfoundland. Completing this mosaic of musical folklore is the Gaelic music of Scottish settlements, particularly in Cape Breton, and the hundreds of Irish songs whose presence in eastern Canada dates from the Irish famine of the 1840s, which forced the large migrations of Irish to North America.
"Knowledge of the
history of Canada", wrote Isabelle Mills in 1974, "is essential in understanding the mosaic of Canadian folk song. Part of this mosaic is supplied by the folk songs of Canada brought by European and Anglo-Saxon settlers to the new land." She describes how the French colony at Québec brought French immigrants, followed before long by waves of immigrants from Great Britain, Germany, and other European countries, all bringing music from their homelands, some of which survives into the present day. Ethnographer and folklorist
Marius Barbeau estimated that well over ten thousand French folk songs and their variants had been collected in Canada. Many of the older ones had by then died out in France.
Music as professionalized paid entertainment grew relatively slowly in Canada, especially remote rural areas, through the 19th and early 20th centuries. While in urban music clubs of the
vaudeville variety became popular, followed by jazz, rural Canada remained mostly a land of traditional music. Yet when American radio networks began broadcasting into Canada in the 1920s and 1930s, the audience for Canadian traditional music progressively declined in favour of
American Nashville-style country music and urban styles like jazz. The
Americanization of Canadian music led the
Canadian Radio League to lobby for a national public broadcaster in the 1930s, eventually leading to the creation of the
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 1936. The CBC promoted Canadian music, including traditional music, on its radio and later television services, but the
mid-century craze for all things "modern" led to the decline of folk music relative to rock and pop. Canada was however influenced by the folk music revival of the 1960s, when local venues such as the Montreal Folk Workshop, and other folk clubs and coffee houses across the country, became crucibles for emerging songwriters and performers as well as for interchange with artists visiting from abroad.
Oklahoma and southern US plains: Before recorded history
American Indians in this area used songs and instrumentation; music and dance remain the core of ceremonial and social activities. "
Stomp dance" remains at its core, a
call and response form; instrumentation is provided by
shackles worn on the legs of women. "Other southeastern nations have their own complexes of sacred and social songs, including those for
animal dances and friendship dances, and songs that accompany
stickball games. Central to the music of the southern
Plains Indians is the drum, which has been called the heartbeat of Plains Indian music. Most of that genre can be traced back to activities of hunting and warfare, upon which plains culture was based." The drum is central to the music of the southern plains Indians. During the reservation period, they used music to relieve boredom. Neighbors gathered, exchanged and created songs and dances; this is a part of the roots of the modern intertribal
powwow. Another common instrument is the
African-American folk music in the area has roots in
slavery and emancipation.
a capella and instrumentally-accompanied—is at the heart of the tradition. Early spirituals framed Christian beliefs within native practices and were heavily influenced by the music and rhythms of Africa."Spirituals are prominent, and often use a call and response pattern. "
Gospel developed after the Civil War (1861–1865). It relied on biblical text for much of its direction, and the use of metaphors and imagery was common. Gospel is a "joyful noise", sometimes accompanied by instrumentation and almost always punctuated by hand clapping, toe tapping, and body movement." "
Sacred Harp singing developed in the early 19th century as a way for itinerant singing instructors to teach church songs in rural communities. They taught using song books in which
musical notations of tones were represented by
geometric shapes that were designed to associate a shape with its pitch. Sacred harp singing became popular in many Oklahoma rural communities, regardless of ethnicity." Later the blues tradition developed, with roots in and parallels to sacred music. Then jazz developed, born from a "blend of ragtime, gospel, and blues"
Anglo-Scots-Irish music traditions gained a place in Oklahoma after the
Land Run of 1889. Because of its size and portability, the
fiddle was the core of early Oklahoma
Anglo music, but other instruments such as the guitar,
steel guitar were added later. Various Oklahoma music traditions trace their roots to the British Isles, including
western swing, and contemporary
country and western." Mexican immigrants began to reach Oklahoma in the 1870s, bringing beautiful
corridos love songs, waltzes, and ballads along with them. Like American Indian communities, each
rite of passage in Hispanic communities is accompanied by traditional music. The acoustic guitar,
string bass, and violin provide the basic instrumentation for Mexican music, with
horns, or sometimes
accordion filling out the sound. Other Europeans (such as
Bohemians and Germans) settled in the late 19th century. Their social activities centered on community halls, "where local musicians played
waltzes on the accordion, piano, and
brass instruments". Later, Asians contributed to the musical mix. "Ancient music and dance traditions from the temples and
courts of China, India, and Indonesia are preserved in Asian communities throughout the state, and popular song genres are continually layered on to these classical music forms"
"It's self-perpetuating, regenerative. It's what you'd call a perennial American song. I don't think it needs a revival, resuscitation. It lives and flourishes. It really just needs people who are 18 years old to get exposed to it. But it will go on with or without them. The folk song is more powerful than anything on the radio, than anything that's released...It's that distillation of the voices that goes on for a long, long time, and that's what makes them strong."
"Folk music revival" refers to either a period of renewed interest in traditional folk music, or to an event or period which transforms it; the latter usually includes a social activism component. A prominent example of the former is the British folk revival of approximately 1890–1920. The most prominent and influential example of the latter (to the extent that it is usually called "the folk music revival") is the folk revival of the mid 20th century, centered in the English-speaking world which gave birth to contemporary folk music. See the "
Contemporary folk music" article for a description of this revival.
Flamenco grew in popularity through the 20th century, as did northern styles such as the Celtic music of
Galicia. French classical composers, from
Ravel, also drew upon Spanish themes, and distinctive Spanish genres became universally recognized.
Folk music revivals or
roots revivals also encompass a range of phenomena around the world where there is a renewed interest in traditional music. This is often by the young, often in the traditional music of their own country, and often included new incorporation of social awareness, causes, and evolutions of new music in the same style.
Nueva canción, a similar evolution of a new form of socially committed music occurred in several Spanish-speaking countries.
Newport Folk Festival is an annual folk festival held near Newport, Rhode Island. It ran most years from 1959 to 1970 and from 1985 to the present, with an attendance of approximately 10,000 people each year.
Philadelphia Folk Festival began in 1962. It is sponsored by the non-profit Philadelphia Folksong Society. The event hosts contemporary and traditional artists in genres including World/Fusion, Celtic, Singer-Songwriter, Folk Rock, Country, Klezmer, and Dance. It is held annually on the third weekend in August. The event now hosts approximately 12,000 visitors, presenting bands on 6 stages.
Sidmouth Festival began in 1954, and Cambridge Folk Festival began in 1965. The
Cambridge Folk Festival in
Cambridge, England is noted for having a very wide definition of who can be invited as folk musicians. The "club tents" allow attendees to discover large numbers of unknown artists, who, for ten or 15 minutes each, present their work to the festival audience.
Bayard, Samuel P. (1950). "Prolegomena to a Study of the Principal Melodic Families of British-American Folk Song". The Journal of American Folklore. 63 (247): 1–44.
JSTOR537347. Reprinted in McAllester, David Park (ed.) (1971) Readings in
ethnomusicology New York: Johnson Reprint.
Bevil, Jack Marshall (1984). Centonization and Concordance in the American Southern Uplands Folksong Melody: A Study of the Musical Generative and Transmittive Processes of an Oral Tradition. PhD Thesis, North Texas University, Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International.
Bevil, Jack Marshall (1987). "A Paradigm of Folktune Preservation and Change Within the Oral Tradition of a Southern Appalachian Community, 1916–1986." Unpublished. Read at the 1987 National Convention of the American Musicological Society, New Orleans.
Bronson, Bertrand Harris. The Singing Tradition of Child's Popular Ballads (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976).
Bronson, Bertrand Harris. The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, with Their Texts, According to the Extant Records of Great Britain and North America, 4 volumes (Princeton and Berkeley:
Princeton University and University of California Presses, 1959, ff.).
Farsani, Mohsen (2003) Lamentations chez les nomades bakhtiari d'Iran. Paris: Université Sorbonne Nouvelle.
Harker, David (1985). Fakesong: The Manufacture of British 'Folksong', 1700 to the Present Day. Milton Keynes [Buckinghamshire]; Philadelphia: Open University Press.
Jackson, George Pullen (1933). White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands: The Story of the Fasola Folk, Their Songs, Singings, and "Buckwheat Notes". Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
LCCN33-3792OCLC885331 Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing (2008)